How to Raise a Global Kid

Article excerpt

Byline: Lisa Miller; With reporting by Lennox Samuels in Singapore

Taking Tiger Mom tactics to radical new heights, these parents are packing up the family for a total Far East Immersion.

Happy Rogers, age 8, stands among her classmates in the schoolyard at dismissal time, immune, it seems, to the cacophonous din. Her parents and baby sister are waiting outside, but still she lingers, engrossed in conversation. A poised and precocious blonde, Hilton Augusta Parker Rogers, nicknamed Happy, would be at home in the schoolyard of any affluent American suburb or big-city private school. But here, at the elite, bilingual Nanyang Primary School in Singapore, Happy is in the minority, her Dakota Fanning hair shimmering in a sea of darker heads. This is what her parents have traveled halfway around the world for. While her American peers are feasting on the idiocies fed to them by junk TV and summer movies, Happy is navigating her friendships and doing her homework entirely in Mandarin.

Fluency in Chinese, she says--in English--through mouthfuls of spaghetti bolognese at a Singapore restaurant, "is going to make me better and smarter."

American parents have barely recovered from the anxiety attacks they suffered at the hands of the Tiger Mom--oh, no, my child is already 7 and she can't play a note of Chopin--and now here comes Happy's father, the multimillionaire American investor and author Jim Rogers, to give them something new to fret about. It is no longer enough to raise children who are brave, curious, hardworking, and compassionate. Nor is it sufficient to steer them toward the right sports, the right tutors, the right internships, and thus engineer their admittance to the right (or at least a good enough) college. According to Rogers, who in 2007 left New York's Upper West Side to settle in Singapore with his wife, Paige Parker, and Happy (Beeland Anderson Parker Rogers, called Baby Bee, was born the next year), parents who really care about their children must also ponder this: are we doing enough to raise "global" kids?

"I'm doing what parents have done for many years," Jim Rogers says. "I'm trying to prepare my children for the future, for the 21st century. I'm trying to prepare them as best I can for the world as I see it." Rogers believes the future is Asia--he was recently on cable television flogging Chinese commodities. "The money is in the East, and the debtors are in the West. I'd rather be with the creditors than the debtors," he adds.

It has become a convention of public discourse to regard rapid globalization--of economies and business; of politics and conflict; of fashion, technology, and music--as the great future threat to American prosperity. The burden of meeting that challenge rests explicitly on our kids. If they don't learn--now--to achieve a comfort level with foreign people, foreign languages, and foreign lands, this argument goes, America's competitive position in the world will continue to erode, and their future livelihood and that of subsequent generations will be in jeopardy. Rogers is hardly the only person who sees things this way. "In this global economy, the line between domestic and international issues is increasingly blurred, with the world's economies, societies, and people interconnected as never before," said U.S. Education Secretary Arne Duncan in remarks in the spring of 2010 at the Asia Society in New York. "I am worried that in this interconnected world, our country risks being disconnected from the contributions of other countries and cultures."

Despite Duncan's articulate urgency (and the public example of Rogers and a few others like him), America is so far utterly failing to produce a generation of global citizens. Only 37 percent of Americans hold a passport. Fewer than 2 percent of America's 18 million college students go abroad during their undergraduate years--and when they do go, it's mostly for short stints in England, Spain, or Italy that are more like vacations. …